Education

Raising the Bar for Talent Engagement in Higher Public Education

Recruitment, engagement, and retention are top of mind for higher educational organizations looking to foster tech talent.

That was one of several key topics at VMware Explore 2022 in San Francisco, where thousands of attendees joined in person and online to share their insights on the latest trends and solutions in the tech space.

State and local funding for higher education last year, including federal stimulus money, fell to $113 billion from more than $300 billion in 2019, reports show. Student enrollment, meanwhile, dropped for the 10th year in a row.

Given these declines and other challenges for public institutions, competing with private entities  for tech talent is no small feat. Evolving technology has made some skills obsolete, while remote living has led to a decline in workforce participation.

During our panel “Attracting, Developing, and Retaining Top Talent,” three experts discussed proactive engagement strategies. VMware Solution Engineering Manager David Davis, VMware SLED Senior Strategist Herbert Thompson, and University of Texas System Chief Technology Officer Rama Dhuwaraha spoke about the ways public institutions can tune into the changing landscape.

One telling fact: More than 10,000 people in the U.S. turn 65 every day. That means educational organizations need to put a greater emphasis on the workforces of the future, as collaboration and team building become more essential. 

“If we don’t prepare for something today, we’re not going to be ready for it tomorrow,” Davis noted.

VMware offers many tools for institutions looking to implement new solutions and better measure their progress when it comes to attracting and retaining key talent. Here are some of the highlights from our discussion on smarter engagement strategies in higher education:

Make Sure You’re Equipped to Meet Today’s Employee Needs

Paying off debt and receiving the right amount of job training are two of the biggest needs for today’s tech workers. Higher public education jobs “have to be able to pay for some of that,” said UT System’s Dhuwaraha. While many jobs are being advertised across the field, recent graduates still face an uphill battle due to their lack of experience. That gives employers on the city and state level opportunities to attract and retain bright minds at an early stage. “We are now doing two-year internships and giving [students] challenging work,” Dhuwaraha noted. “But they will come in when they’re juniors and seniors. We want a commitment that those who train will stay — and these are good-paying jobs once they transition.”

Wear Your Educational Badge with Pride and Always Modernize

Educational organizations a decade ago were far more siloed in their daily tasks, VMware’s Thompson pointed out. “Today we have morphed into this team mentality that it takes a whole village of people working on an activity to fix it,” Thompson said. “So, we have to change the way that we recruit in order to appeal to that.” Public institutions have a clear opportunity to grab a bigger share of tech talent and should always give considerable thought to their messaging. “The biggest export brand the United States has is higher education,” Dhuwaraha argued. “Everything else comes secondary.” 

Turn Your Job Descriptions into Job Missions

As more educational institutions transition to microdegrees, university CIOs should keep close tabs on the most essential job roles today. Think system administrators, multi-cloud experts, and modern app specialists, for example. Public institutions should also keep their messaging in tune with the latest industry practices. But job postings can only go so far these days without a mission that resonates. “I don’t think 10 years ago I would see government jobs that say: You can make a real business impact on societal issues,” Thompson noted. “Jobs today are really geared at getting into the minds of the people who are actually applying for them.” 

Think Outside the Box and Think Beyond Traditional HR

Among the growing number of retirees, “there’s a boomerang effect because of inflation, boredom, name it,” Dhuwaraha said. “Most of those folks don’t want to go into the private sector because they don’t want to deal with the quarterly Wall Street results day in and day out.” But employers in higher public education need to be in the right position to capture that. Institutions that want to get ahead can no longer solely rely on their HR departments. There’s a deep talent pool, from recent graduates to empty nesters, and all departments across an organization are vital resources when it comes to recruiting and retaining.

Watch the full State and Local Government and Education Workshop here. “Attracting, Developing, and Retaining Top Talent” begins at just about the 2-hour mark. 

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